All right, Top 10 albums! Woooooooooooooo!
10. Fen – Dustwalker
Fen are a atmospheric post-black metal band out of London. They get the name Fen, from a marshy flatland area of England called The Fens, where they grew up. They embody the atmosphere of The Fens in their music. I first got into them when I heard their sophomore LP in 2011, Epoch. I originally gravitated toward Fen over other groups that play this style of music because they seamlessly combine elements black metal, post-rock, folk, and at time progressive rock, so perfectly and have such a definitive sound. They progress on all of these sounds on their latest record, Dustwalker. This time around, it seems they put an emphasis on the more serene sounds of post-rock. Many tracks on the album features long clean passages full of acoustic and clean electric guitars and clean vocals. The track Spectre is actually entirely post-rock sounding, with no black metal sounds at all. Other tracks show Fen taking a more melodic approach to black metal, like the track, Wolf Sun. The musicianship on the record is as good as ever, with plenty of great guitar work ranging from black metal riffs to plucked folk chords, interesting bass lines, and fantastic drumming that perfectly fits every mood and color presented on the record. Dustwalker also has a fair amount of electronic use, from keyboards to a lot of e-bow melodies, which give the feelings that you’re at the top of a hill, surveying a great land mass while breathing in crisp air. Yet again, Fen prove to be one of the best bands to truly meld black metal with post-rock and give a definite sound to the label “post-black metal”. If you dig atmospheric black metal, you need to listen to this record.
Hands Of Dust
The Black Sound
9. Gorguts – Colored Sands
Gorguts are one of many classic death metal bands that I never really got into when I was first exploring extreme metal. I remember downloading a few of their records to familiarize myself with some of their material because I was going to see them open on the Death To All tour in 2012. While I thought their earlier work was decent death metal, I never really got into their acclaimed record, Obscura. But after seeing them live, I was really impressed with their sound, but still didn’t really revisit their material. So when I heard they had a new album coming out in 2013, I was definitely interested. And when I heard the album, I was blown away.
If you don’t already know, Gorguts are a Canadian avant-garde/technical death band that was founded by Luc Lemay in 1989. While their original material was standard death metal, their later releases saw them experimenting with odd time signatures, a lot of dissonance, and unconventional song structures. The current line-up of Gorguts is Luc Lemay with Kevin and Colin of Dysrtyhmia and John from Origin. The new line-up breathes some new life in the band, but Luc’s wicked song writing is still what’s most prominent in their sound. Their new album, Colored Sands, sees Gorguts taking off from where they last were, with a monster of an album. Each song is built from dense riffs in odd time signatures and are really dissonant and thick. The musician ship on the record is highly impressive, featuring some of the best guitar and bass work I’ve heard all year. And the tone these guys get is just massive. The bass lays down such a thick foundation and the guitar sounds are wicked. Most of the tunes range from 6-8 and each song packs a punch. Even the song The Battle of Chamdo, which is a piece written for a violin quartet, is extremely eerie, and shows that Luc Lemay can do more than just metal. Overall, Colored Sands shows that Gorguts still has it after a long break, supplying some crushingly heavy avant-garde that’s riddled with dissonance and crushing riffs. If death metal is your thing, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard this already.
An Ocean Of Widsom
Enemies Of Compassion
8. Usnea – Usnea
Pure evil. That’s what comes to mind when I listen to Usnea’s debut record. Usnea are a doom metal from Portland 4-piece that combine the hellish sounds of funeral doom metal, sludge metal, and black metal to craft some of the most wicked sounding metal to come out all year. The band themselves describe their sound by stating, “Oppressive tone and volume combine with lyrics searching for meaning in a world full of oppression, human hierarchy and bleakness and fueled by the anger and despondency that are its by-product... perhaps in the liberation of negativity we are truly freed.” Across the two tracks on the record, Usnea uses both high black metal shrieks an low death metal grunts and write trudging doom metal riffs that give the listener goosebumps and let them sit and brew to build a hellish atmosphere before bursting into fierce black metal passages that tear you apart. Even though the record is only a little over 30 minutes along across its two tracks, Usnea does a fantastic job of delivering some of the heaviest, and most evil sounding metal I’ve heard all year. This album would probably rank higher if the two extra tracks that come with the digital download of the record were technically a part of the album, as those tracks are just as competent as the two album tracks. But even so, the fact that Unsea leaves such a huge impact in only half an hour with their brutal riffs is a feat. If you’re looking for unrelenting, heavy as hell funeral doom metal, this is your album.
Brazen Bull Of Phalaris
7. Nails – Abandon All Life
The best was to describes Nails’ sound is “hatred ad infinitum”; endless hatred. Nails are a 4-piece powerviolence out of southern California and they put the power and violence in powerviolence. If you’re not familiar with that genre tag, it sounds just like that name. If you want a legit description, it’s a combination of hardcore punk and grindcore with elements of sludge metal thrown in to create some of the heaviest and most brutal music the world has to offer. In my opinion, Nails have perfected the art on their sophomore LP, Abandon All Life. Across 10 tracks in just 17 minutes, Nails deliver some of the most brutal and hate-filled music I’ve had the pleasure of subjecting myself to. Their tone on the record is absolutely brutal. Nails use the HM-2 Heavy Metal pedals that’s popular amongst Swedish death metal acts to create brutal buzzsaw tones, and guitarist/vocalist Todd Jones has one of the meanest screams out there. Songs on the record range from shorts blast of shear grinding rage like the tracks Cry Wolf and Absolute Control, slightly longer tunes that throw in some heavy, slamming riffs like God’s Cold Hands and Abandon All Life, to longer tunes that features heavy hitting sludge riffs that crush your bones to dust like Wide Open Wound and the album’s devastating closing track, Suum Cuique. The pure rage and hatred that give this album such a definite sound is just way too massive to ignore. If you’re into fast, brutal music, not having heard this record yet should be a crime. So do it.
It's only 17 minutes long, listen to the whole thing
6. Lycus – Tempest
Bay Area funeral doomsters, Lycus, hit the nail on the head with their debut album, Tempest. Lycus combines sounds of both funeral and traditional doom metal with sludge and black metal to create really haunting and sorrowful music with an aggressive edge. The most unique thing that Lycus does is have three different types of vocals on the record, often times with two going on at a time. The band uses Gregorian chant like cleans, guttural lows, and haunting shrieks to deliver lyrics full of sorrow and despair. The chanting vocals often feel like drones in the background that only build eerie atmospheres to accompany devastating riffs Across the three tracks on the record, the band displays weeping doom riffs that develop into hellish death metal and black metal passages, before returning to sorrowful doom passages. The songs almost resemble being caught in a tempest storm, with calm beginnings the turn into ravishing waves that eventually calm down and take the ship down it. They way the band develops eerie atmospheres is remarkable; especially on the title track that features violin accompaniment that weeps over the guitar’s sinister melodies. The record is the finest funeral doom metal album of the year, combining mournful doom melodies with heavy sludge riffs and punishing black metal passages. If you like doom metal, listen to this.